Like the weather, customers are constantly changing. It takes smart customer learning to adjust and succeed. The Internet has made the world smaller and faster, accelerating the change process. Today's fad swiftly becomes tomorrow's antique. Keeping up with changes in customer needs and expectations requires a comprehensive approach to customer intelligence. Positioning the customer as mentor can add a brand new layer of learning.
Forensics is the examination of evidence using a broad spectrum of disciplines to arrive at a conclusion regarding the cause of death. Customer forensics is a postmortem examination of customer intelligence to determine the true cause of the loss of the customer. Marshall Goldsmith labels it 'feed forward.' It positions a lost customer as mentor-teaching an organization lessons from the past that can be beneficial in anticipating the future. It starts with letting former customers know the goal is learning, not reclaiming their allegiance. If lost customers smell a backhanded sales call or win-back tactic, they will withhold the information needed for instruction and insight.
Freeman?rovides services for exhibitions, conventions and corporate events. Attend any large trade show around the country and odds are Freeman has supplied much of the booths and furnishings you see around you. When a large customer deserted Freeman for a competitor, they "deputized" a few employees to be service detectives. Armed with a special analytical tools, they sorted through records and interviewed customers and customer contact people. They hit pay dirt when one of their customer service reps solved the mystery: When leaving one of their shows a customer had complained that his last shipment containing time-sensitive material had arrived one day late, dramatically reducing its usefulness to the customer. It led Freeman to add a new question to their order-entry process that determined if "time of delivery" was merely important or absolutely critical.
Most customer departure is driven less about a single event and more by a combination of factors that finally boil to a tipping point. The spark that ignites exit might be a rate increase, a perceived drop in quality, or frontline rudeness, but it only works because other factors have gradually increased the customer's interest in switching providers. Think of it as the "wandering eye" syndrome. Since switching requires effort and a potential disruption of operation, it is likely it takes a series of negatives that finally brings the customer into the "zone of indifference." Once in that zone, the customer only needs a trigger to push them to the "zone of wrath" where they actively plot and/or initiate their exit move.
The purpose of positioning the customer into a mentoring role is to learn the factors that push customers into the "zone of indifference," not just exploration of the tipping point. Fixing the pain point may do little to correct the root cause for exit. This is crucial because, according to our research, customers are still salvageable while in the zone of indifference. Customer forensics will also teach a great deal about the kinds of incidents that send customers into the "zone of wrath." An important point to know is this: Once customers are in this final zone, they can rarely be saved.
Knowing what customers are really like starts with the recognition that reviewing the results from customer interviews, surveys, and focus groups is at best looking in a rear-view mirror. Today's customers change too rapidly to rely solely on what they reported. Instead it is important to anticipate where they are going. In the words of famed hockey player, Wayne Gretzky, "A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be."